Comedy of Errors
For the Sunday after Christmas, my aunt and uncle invited us to lunch at their house in mid-northern New Jersey. Uncle Paul is my father's younger brother. He and his wife Mary Jo (Missy) have four kids, Erin, Megan, Daniel and Kristen.
Over the years, we've gathered at their house or ours quite often, but lately, these visits have been less frequent as kids go off to college, leave home and otherwise segue into adult life.
However, a visit to the cousins is always something to look forward to, even if Erin, who is closest to myself in age, was not going to be there.
We piled into two cars after my parents came home from church. Dad, Mom and Tom in my parents' Jetta; Sabs, myself and Ted in our car.
As we pulled out of the parking lot Sabs realized that a)he'd forgotten his cell phone which he was going to need to call his father to arrange a dinner meeting later that night and b)that we only had a quarter tank of gas.
He flicked his lights at my Dad to get him to stop, to no avail. Unfortunately, none of the occupants of our car were 100 per cent sure how to get to Uncle Paul's house and we had no map of New Jersey, so we had no choice but to continue to follow my Dad.
This auspicious start should have warned us of things to come.
First there was the delay on the turnpike due to increased holiday traffic between southern Jersey and New York City. That slowed us up considerably, such that we did get to 195 to turn east across the state until about 2pm.
By then, we were almost out of gas and still Sabs couldn't seem to get my Dad to notice his signals, so I made a sign "WE NEED GAS" and pulled up alongside so they could see it.
We pulled off at the next exit to fill up and I made a dash for the rest rooms. On my way back to the car, my foot turned and I twisted my ankle.
Twenty minutes later, my mom and I were standing by the side of the road watching the four macho men change the tire on the Jetta. The tire had gone flat due to a nail. I held my sore ankle up against the frozen side of the car to help reduce the swelling and laughed heartily at the guys being alpha males and discussing the possiblity of putting Sabs' spare on the Jetta since the Jetta didn't have a full-size spare.
We finally got back on the road with Dad swearing a blue streak, hobbling along at 50mph, with still half of the distance to Paul's to travel.
A few exits later, Dad got off of the highway to use a local road since he couldn't drive fast anyway. Now begins a series of pull-offs into roadside auto shops and gas stations as Dad tries in vain to find a place that is a) open on the Sunday after Christmas and b) can fix the tire or replace it.
Around 3pm, he finally found a place that was open but they discovered that there were two nails in the tire and a sizeable rupture that they couldn't patch. My mom had to pee really badly and we were only about a half hour or so from my uncle's house, so she jumped into our car with the map while Tom and Dad headed to the Sears in Freehold, NJ to buy new tires.
Our carload finally made it to Uncle Paul's just before four pm after much wracking of brains to remember the way. Mom got to pee, I got an ice pack and all was good.
As we sat comfortably around the kitchen table waiting for Dad and Tom to arrive, Megan reminded me of Easter 1984. Paul and his family came to visit us with my grandfather that year and the house was filled to bursting with kids.
There were eggs on the cherry tree outside that year, along with our baskets, filled to the brim with goodies. I carried Meg down to the tree to get her basket on my back, because she was barefoot and would hurt her feet on the gravel paths that led down to the lawn.
The Lamantia kids were also there at one point that Spring and there weren't enough beds to go around. The house was filled from top to bottom with kids. I had to sleep on the floor for a couple of nights as a result and boy was I unhappy about that!
Oddly enough I spent a large part of this Christmas season sleeping on the floor, or close to it at my parents' apartment since they only had enough beds/mattresses for three additional people.
My grandfather used my room while the cousins were visiting and he got quite ill once during that time. I remember seeing him, pale and shaking sitting in my room with all of the covers including my big pink comforter thrown around his shoulders. We also had to go downtown to get a special face mask for my cousin Daniel. He was just a little baby, but already had a severe case of asthma.
My Dad, Tom and the cousins went to Paris during that visit. We have lots of pictures of Tom revisting the old neighborhood near where he was born, looking windtossed but happy. He didn't look quite so happy when he and my father got back from Sears.
They finally made it to Paul's house around 5:30 and we had dinner instead of lunch. A few judiciously placed phone calls got us in touch with Sabs' Dad and the dinner date was changed for a lunch date for today.
A mighty excellent lunch it was too. If any of you ever wind up on route 1 in Pennsylvania just outside of Philly, I heartily recommend the food at the Chadd's Ford Inn. It was a bit pricey, but very much worth it, especially since we weren't paying for it!
Anyway, after dinner, Danny and I started going through all the old family photos and I picked up a treasure trove of images from as far back as the turn of the century. Paul let me bring the back to Virginia and I'll be spending a lot of time with the scanner in the next few days to archive the photos and start posting some of them online.
We managed to make our way without too many delays through the holiday traffic after a brief stop back at Sabs' mom's house to pick up our forgotten items. A crafty shortcut on Sabs' part allowed us to avoid the bulk of the 16 mile backup on the Beltway around 5pm and we were home after a stop at his office by 6:20pm.
Not too shabby at all.